tv Washington Week PBS October 27, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
gwen: could this be the closest campaign in a generation, or do the candidates know something we don't? we explore tonight on "washington week." >> hello, virginia! >> i'm glad to be here in columbus, ohio. >> how's it good, tampa? >> that's a nevada welcome! >> hello, colorado! gwen: it's getting close. getting nervous yet? it's now officially a billion-dollar campaign, and candidates are all in. >> i've been going for about 38 hours straight, even though my voice is getting kind of hoarse, i've still got a spring in my step because, because our cause it right. >> i'm not just optimistic about
winning. i'm more optimistic about the future for america. gwen: so, what do we know about how the campaign is trending and who's already voted? about how these candidates would handle foreign policy? >> you look at the record of the last four years and say is iran closer to a bomb? yes. is the middle east in tumult? yes. is al qaeda on the run, on its heels? no. >> you said that first we shouldn't not have a time line in afghanistan, then you said we should. now you say maybe or it depends. gwen: and what do we know about the ground game it will take for either one to win in covering the campaign's closing weeks, movie -- molly ball of 9 -- covering the campaign's closing weeks, molly ball of "the atlantic," gloria borger of cnn, susan davis of "u.s.a. today"," and james kitfield of "national journal." >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it
happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill. produced in associated with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" be provided by -- ♪ >> wherever our trail blazers -- trains divorce, the economy comes to live. norfolk southern. one line, infinity possibilities the >> we know why we're here. to chart a greener path in the air and in our factories. >> to find cleaner, more efficient ways to power flight.
>> and harness our technology for new energy solutions. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to build a belter tomorrow. >>that's why we're here. additional funding is also provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. it's about 8:00 p.m. eastern time two fridays before the election and according to the app on my iphone, we have 10 days, 23 hours, 15 minutes and
53 seconds before the polls close. accord dog every one of what seems like a thousand polls taken this week, this thing say true dead heat. so what are the candidates up to? they are releasing new ads every day. it's said that character is what we do when no one is looking. mitt romney thought no one was looking when he attacked 47% of americans. his company shipped jobs overseas. >> higher deficits, chronic unemployment, a president who admits he can't work with congress. >> you can't change washington from the inside. >> but he says he's had only four years. that's all mitt romney needed. he turned massachusetts around. turned the deficit into a rainy kay -- day fund. >> and they are crisscrossing the nation, attracting huge crowds in one or the other of eight key battleground states in
search of a break out message. >> there is no more serious message in the presidential campaign than who can you trust? trust matters. who is going to look out for you? and here's the thing. nevada, you know me by now. you know i say what i mean. and i mean what i say. >> this is not the time to double down on trickle-down government policies that have failed us. it's time for new, bold changes that measure up to the moment and that can bring america's families the certainty that the future will be better than the past. gwen: and that's just what you can see. the campaign is coming down to science -- numbers-crunching, door-knocking, message-crafting science. and that extends to politics at every level, including a critical group of tight senate races. at this point does anyone really know what is going to dies -- decide all this, gloria? >> no. [laughter]
look, it's coming coup -- down to a smaller and smaller group of undecided voters. if you ralk -- talk to republicans, the karl rove theory is that this late in the race, undecided rote -- voters will go to the challenger. if you talk to workers for president obama they say that's not the case. others say they might just stay home and decide not to vote. what you saw in those clips you were just showing it the candidates making their closing arguments because in the end after all the negative ads, which i think at this point probably cancel each other out and it's just a lot of noise out there right now, it comes down to a matter of trust. what -- who do you trust? whose character do you really believe in? and overall whose opt tism -- optimism do you kind of buy into? >> we have heard mitt romney with a slightly tweaked message,
the hopi changey thing that used to be the province of obama. >> i think this is a clever turn for him and i'm surprised he didn't start hitting it earlier because the obama brand of hope and change was so strong. like you said it, the way sarah palin said it, that hopi changey thing, he really reminded us that that wa what's obama promised. gwen: when i covered him, he campaigned and did defeat an income befpblet you can't just run on change though if you're the guy with the job? >> no, that's what he delivered. you run on i promised to end the wars, i promised to help the economy and it's heading in the right direction i promised i would get you health care and i passed health care the
gwen: let's talk about where the candidates are really going. there are some head-fakes this week. we're going to compete in north carolina, not in minnesota. but today the president gave a series of interviews to local tv stations and about who he talked to -- iowa, wisconsin, north carolina, florida, eff last one of them battle ground states. romney has been campaigning in iowa, this weekend in virginia if the storm doesn't knock him off, in florida and wisconsin. this is what it's all boiled down to, molly. >> absolutely. you see them both doing this marathon campaigning now, this frenzy, going to three states a day, from stop to stop on the plane. you've got to imagine they're just exhausted but it's a very narrow group of states. they're really not venturing outside it. i don't think anyone thinks new
states are going to come onto the board at this late stage. there was a little bit of chatter today about minnesota, both candidates putting a little bit of money into media markets in minute machine and the speculation is, is this just the ads that bleed into wisconsin? gwen: it's -- let's do a little three dimensional chat it. it's not just about the campaign, james, about leadership and trust. it's also about a more narrow specific. let's talk about the senate races. >> a lot of the senate battle ground is happening out de of the traditional battle ground states. the best example is probably massachusetts. you have a battle there, scott brown, who historicly won the ted kennedy seat, is up against elizabeth warren. if it wasn't a presidential year i think brown would be favored
but i think warn -- warren is probably going to win in the end. that's because of barack obama. states like nevada be a good example gwen: you say nevada? >> you're right. i'm going to get angry letters now. but i think it's a state where the votes are going to track very similar to the lines of the presidential race. gwen: how about montana? >> you're not seeing the opposite. there isn't a lot of romney coattail effect out of these states. a lot are really either competitive or leaning toward obama. it would not shock me if the race is decided by less than 1,000 votes. that's how tight it is. >> or how many people! [laughter] >> and indiana this week,
gloria? that wasn't such a tight race and all of a sudden it is again the >> well, of course. because of remarks made my mourdock, who spoke about rape again and it sort of echoed todd achein, -- aikin, even though it was very different because he is opposed to any exceptions for a abortion. that is a difference from mitt romney's position, we should say. but what happens, when you have this be an issue in the campaign, and you talk about women being up for grarkss women voters are the crucial voters in every swing state. so if you're the romney campaign, something like that happens, romney just cut an ad for him the day before. so you worry about that. now, i talked to somebody, a senior advisor in the romney
campaign after it happened and said does this make you nervous? he said, look, we tested -- tested this after todd akin and what we think people believe is just because somebody says a dumb thing they don't necessarily blame your candidate for it. but i'm not so sure there isn't osmosis at some point where you say well, it's a republican saying this and we've heard that a few times now. >> but what the obama campaign believes is any excuse to bring this up sways women toward them. i've talked to so many women voters where they do feel tugged in two different directions. maybe they do feel they are leaning toward romney because of the economy but if you get them thinking about adorgs and the social issues, then they lean back toward obama.
so if they can just make these women voters have that issue at the top of their minds instead of the economy, that's what's going to sway them. gwen: here's an issue that's not on the top of anyone's mind. even though it was the subject of the final foreign policy debate, which was this week though it feels like it was months ago. at the end it was clear both had a strategy goinging in and it had very little to do with talking about the u.s. foreign policy. >> right. there was the expected clash of world views. romney has been bush -- pushing the idea of american exceptionalism, the very muscular view of foreign policy, pushing, and right down the line , but that romney didn't show up for the debate. he pulled himself very close to president obama's positions on pulling the troops out of afghanistan in 2014, on not
introducing military forces into the crisis in syria, on crippling sanctions in iran and it was really stunning. gwen: did the specifics matter or was this about both of them trying to look like the commander fdemeef >> it was a good strategy on romney's part, iroda tulyaganovaly. the public suffered from not having two candidates with two very different inextincts -- instincts on foreign policy, but this is where he has stumbled. whenever he has gotten into the foreign policy arena, he has stumbled. in the second debate he challenged president obama on calling what happened in benghazi an act of terror the this time he just looked presidential. i think that probably succeeded. president obama was ready after the first debate.
he called him out, saying you've had this position before and -- gwen: romnesia. but this puzzled me, some thought romney won all the debates. he had the most to 2k3w5eu7b89 >> just by standing there next to the commander in chief you raise your level because you are actually going toe to toe with the commander in chief -- chief on questions of foreign policy. and interesting, during the debate i was getting all these emails from conservative republicans, one of whom said i'm going to go have another bourbon right now particularly after the president said withdraw from afghanistan on this timetable without questioning it or talking about the commanders on the ground and all the rest. so it was -- well, to me all the sort of neo-cons -- gwen: did that bother them?
>> yes. but they're not about to say anything right now. kind of holding their fire. >> partisans and foreign policy experts by myself were really expecting the clash of world views. when you get to a debate, you really want to have disstinctions clarified and illuminated, not blurred. gwen: let me ask you about one. the size of the military. that was one major clash in the debate. but the real argument was about what the size of the military should be and whether it should be cut and there's not uniform agreement on that. >> no. and that was one clear disstinction. governor romney wants to keep 100,000 troops that the pentagon, after the wars wind down, wants to get rid of and increase the size of the navy. it depends on whether you feel now is the time to increase defense spending or put it in
our economic debt crisis. it's a pretty good distinction. but to what end? the debate was supposed to give you a framework on what the president would do with foreign policy and we didn't get a lot of that. gwen: molly, you've been going out on the actual campaign trail with people who are door-knockers and so on every day. i wonder whether these issues we talk about in our little hothouse in washington come up when people are trying to get voters to though -- show up to vote? >> they do. it's easy to say voters don't care about x, y, or z but voters are smarter than we think and they pay attention and are processing all this in a very careful way. one woman in florida said the reason she's still undecided is she has all the debates on d.v.r. and wants to do her
homework. gwen: what? what? that sounds awful to me! >> i know. but there was tremendous earnestness. a lot of the undecided voters are people who legitimately see validity in both candidates' views and are really looking fob for that trust factor the gwen: how much? about undecideds and how many -- how much is it about turning out people who are more likely to support one view than the others? >> exactly. that's the science you were talking about about. i've been visiting field offices in all the different states and most of what goes on, you can't see. most is about the bar codes on the sheets as the canvasers are going out, whose doors they're deciding to knock on and why, who they are calling and how. obama built a very formidable organization four years ago. he's continued to build on that using very advanced data
targeting techniques, really picking up where karl rove left off in 2004. republicans have made a lot of progress since then but most of the people who watched this objectively say they're not in the same league. >> it is such a science at this point and don't forget the republicans had to go through a primary. while the republicans were going through their primaries, the democrats were signing up voters, registering voters, figuring out how to get them out. that's why you see in the state of ohio, for example, even the polls -- though polls are a handful apart with the president in the lead, the organization in the state of ohio for the democratic party is unbelievable. . question is who do you actually get to vote early? you have to be careful. you don't caine allies your voters who are going to go out
-- gwen: eight million people voted early. >> right. you need to get -- get those voters they call low propensity. gwen: or erratic tote -- voters? >> yeah. voters who might not otherwise vote. you want to get them to vote early for you without depressing your own turnout on election day. so it is such a science, and it's very difficult to tell right now who is winning. gwen: does that kind of science trickle down to house or senate races? it's very different, isn't it? >> very detective -- different. and the obama organization, their ground game is run differently than the house and senate. ey have different voter lists, different ways of tarling -- targeting how they get their voters out. i think in some ways candidates just get the fringe benefit in the presidential election year, that there's not much they can do in terms of overlap in the sense they hend -- tend to benefit in certain places
because you get more turnout. in a lot of ways that tends to benefit the incumbent which is one way we're seeing not a tremendous amount of turnover in the congressional elections this year. turnover sends -- tends to happen in off years. in presidential years it tends to reinforce the status quo. gwen: if you had to say which are the races that will determine the control of the snarks, which would you say theory? >> if you want to go to bed early, keep an eye on virginia. tight battle between tim kaine and george allen, who famously made the macaca remark when he was running in 200. this is seen as one of those bellwether races that if tim kaine wins, tems are probably in a -- democrats are probably in a
good position to win the senate. if george allen wins, it will be different. gwen: and will we know more about specifics or just how different they are about each other? >> i think the debates have been disappointing that way. governor romney wanted to move to the middle, so he tried to blur a lot of the distinctions he mad during the primaries. and it seems to be working for him so who am i to criticize that? but it doesn't give you a lot of illumineation about the differences between the candidates. i don't know that there is much you can do about it. >> i think there is pretty big distinction in terms of the economy and what they would do because i think there's two
different roads on the tax bill. and they turned the foreign policy debate time and time again back to the debate. foreign policy was much more sort of mood music, who do you trust. and the first debate, the reason i think that mighte he president is that it was about largely, about the economy, and he didn't seem to be fighting enough and, you know, he says to mitt romney, the math doesn't add up, romney says that's not true, my math adds up, and he was fighting and i think that makes a big difference to people. gwen: briefly, i just want to end up by talking about this issue because it seems to have boiled down this week to status quo versus change. four years ago broke -- barack obama was the change guy. how does that boil down in the next two weeks?
molly? >> they just keep having the argument. gwen: really? oh, good. oh, joy. >> anything new at this stage? that's dangerous. >> i think you see romney focusing more on the personal and likability. he passed the debate test. he proved himself a viable alternative and now it comes down to this likable factor. every pom i've ever seen, obama has this, you may not approve of him but like him. i don't think mitt romney has that. >> i think it comes down to voter enthusiasm and getting your people out. gwen: and sometimes scaring them. look what might happen? >> exactly. >> well, thank you. still counting down. we'll keep chath away on line on the "washington week" webcast extra. you can find than at
pbs.org/washingtonweek. before we go tonight, we'd like to send our condolences to the family of former senator, presidential candidate, and huhe wadasis arn. he passed away this week at age 90. keep up with daily developments in this too close to guess d campaign on the pbs news hour. then next friday night be sure to join me and the rest of the pbs public affairs family for a pre-election special we're calling "what's at stake." check your local listings at the time. that will be right after we see you here next week on "washington week." good night. funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875 we've been there for
our clients through good times and bad. when their needs changed, we were there to meet them. through the years, from insurance to investment management, from real estate to retirement solutions, we've developed new ideasor fde the financial challenges ahead. this rock has never stood still, and that's one thing that will never change. prudential. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is providing by norfolk southern. boeing. additional funding for "washington week" is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.